Meet borough’s new director of operations

By on April 10, 2013

By: BECKY ROWE Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

Tom Natarian

Ephrata Borough’s Director of Operations is a new position that began the end of June 2012. Borough Manager Bob Thompson explained how the need for this position was determined.

"We had some organizational change in the last two years, and part of that was the thought of consolidating all the utilities under one person," Thompson said. "It just made sense to create this position.

Upon approval from Borough Council, the search for a candidate began.

"While there were multiple responses, no one had the qualifications of Tom Natarian," said Thompson. "He was passionate about providing quality service. He brought with him a mindset of efficiencies and doing things as cost effectively as possible."

Natarian, a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering technology. Upon graduation in 1981, he moved to Lancaster County and worked for Armstrong World Industries in their Central Engineering Department.

"After just two years in Lancaster, Armstrong transferred me to their plant in South Gate, California," Natarian explained. "South Gate is a suburb of Los Angeles. As a person who grew up in a small town, Los Angeles would have been the last place on earth I would have expected to find myself when I graduated from college. But it turned out to be a great break. It was in California where I met my wife Catherine. We were married in California and then moved to Alabama where I was involved in the startup of a new Armstrong plant.

"I will always have a warm spot in my heart for the time we were in Alabama," he continued. "My oldest daughter Cassie was born in Alabama, and then we moved. This time we moved back to Lancaster County, where I have remained since 1988."

They raised Cassie and younger daughter Chelsea here, and now the girls have graduated college and are out on their own.

"It was great raising our children here in Lancaster County, but now my wife and I are getting used to being empty nesters," Natarian said.

As director of operations, the four primary divisions under Natarian’s responsibility are water, waste water, public works and electric.

"We’re very fortunate here to have good people who are in charge," Natarian said. "We have superintendents at the electric and public works who have been in their positions for a long time, and we have promoted a person who has been here for 20 years to be in charge of the waste water group."

Another integral part of Natarian’s profile is his involvement with American Municipal Power (AMP), a member organization that assists providers in the management of their electric systems. Their 130 members from the states of Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Delaware, Virginia and Pennsylvania represent a broad cross-section of the public power community. Out of the 36 Pennsylvania boroughs that provide public power, 30 are members of AMP. Natarian serves on the Board of Trustees, representing the Pennsylvania contingent of the organization.

"This is a big responsibility that I take very seriously," Natarian said. "Recently, I was visiting four different communities, trying to see what their needs are and make myself available to them, so it’s an important part of this job."

"That’s key, too, because his representation there (with AMP) allows the Borough to learn about projects that are upcoming at the earliest possible moment," Thompson added. "And then he’s also able to assist other members in determining whether or not that’s a good project for them."

AMP’s member spotlight for March just happens to be the Borough of Ephrata, "a great place to live, work and play." Stated on their web site, "Ephrata has been named a Reliable Power Public Provider (RP3) program recipient by the American Public Power Association (APPA). RP3 is recognition for providing consumers with the highest degree of reliable and safe electric service."

To read more about the spotlight on Ephrata, visit

Coming up in March is a legislative rally in Washington, D.C., sponsored by APPA, emphasizing several issues important to municipal power suppliers like Ephrata. As the Pennsylvania representative on the Board of Trustees of AMP, Natarian will be participating in the rally. There he will have the opportunity to meet with Senator Pat Toomey and Congressman Joe Pitts, or their representatives.

The rally is intended to create awareness of municipal power and the impact that certain legislative issues can have upon municipal power. Topics for this year include: Electricity Infrastructure, Issues Ensuring Diversified Energy Sources, Environmental Policy, Promoting Functioning, Competitive Wholesale Electricity Markets, Tax and Budget Issues and a Telecommunications Policy.

It’s hard to imagine Natarian has any free time with all of his responsibilities, but he said, "Now that my wife and I have more time to ourselves, we hope to travel a bit."

Home improvements are another interest of Natarian’s.

"When you own an old house your hobby is doing home repairs and renovations," he said. "Over the past few years we’ve rebuilt our kitchen and family room, designed and built a deck, painted just about every room in the house (twice), and most recently we redecorated the bathroom.

"It’s probably not a big surprise given my position at the Borough, but one of my passions is energy efficiency," Natarian continued. "At home I have cut my personal energy usage by over 50 percent in the past four years. Energy efficient light bulbs, a high efficiency heat pump, setback thermostats, energy efficient windows, good insulation and a tankless water heater are all elements that I’ve built into my house.

"From the perspective of industry, I think one of the trends is the focus on the short term and the efficiency and profitability for today, next month, and the month after," he added. "It is refreshing to come to a place like Ephrata that is looking at the long term and is focused on building systems and having systems in place that will function years from now, long after (Thompson) and I are gone." More NATARIAN, page A18

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